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In Marketplace

Despite influx of tourists, dollars, some merchants frown on Big Gig


Although The Big Gig is undeniably great for Milwaukee's big picture, some Brew City businesses wane in Summerfest's shadow.

The Historic Third Ward's Nankusa Japanese Restaurant, for example, closes its doors for all 11 days of the Fest.

Stephan Doud, one of the managers at Palms, 221 N. Broadway, says they find Summerfest to be a challenging time for business and consequently close early during the Big Gig and many nights close their dining room in favor of outside seating.

"It's a very slow time of year for us, so we close early to avoid the post-Summerfest crowd," he says.

Bella Café, 189 N. Milwaukee St., also closes early every day during the Big Gig.

"We're just not busy enough. You'd like to think they'd want to stop here first to eat, and not spend a fortune on food, but no," says a clerk at Bella.

But how could a festival that brings in tens of thousands of tourists and countless dollars into the economy possibly hurt its neighbors? Are these businesses simply short-sighted or is their argument legit?

All of the Historic Third Ward merchants interviewed by OMC agree that the most inconvenient aspect of Summerfest is the lack of parking for their customers.

"Parking is non-existent," says Doud.

Eli Rosenblatt and Craig Stone, owners of Artasia, 159 N. Broadway, say Summerfest is not their favorite time of year, particularly because of the lack of parking spots.

"Our regular customers shy away during Summerfest because they don't want to deal with the parking issues," says Rosenblatt. "It really slows things down."

Tracie Stier-Johnson, owner of Broadway Paper, 191 N. Broadway, says her regular customers also complain about the lack of parking, and that sales stagnate, but she sees Summerfest, overall, as a positive marketing tool.

"People don't buy anything when they're on their way to Summerfest because they don't want to carry extra packages, but I think it's great that so many people stop in and see where we are and hopefully plan to come back some time," she says.

Adam LaLuzerne, manager at Sauce, 217 N. Broadway, says even though it's the only time of year they sell more booze than food, business is slower. However, while crowds may not spend as much, LaLuzerne noticed a difference in the after-Summerfest crowd this year.

"This year we've seen a more mature, really good crowd," he says. "I think it's because of the (music) line-up this year."

Stone agrees. "It seems a few years back there were rougher concertgoers, but so far this year, it's been OK," he says.

Although festival garbage and noise were part of the reason why Laura Emir and her family moved to Glendale this summer, she says they saw improvements over the five-year span they lived in The Third Ward.

"Summerfest became a progressively better neighbor as the years went on," says Emir. "They installed port-a-potties, closed off our street to through traffic and had police on horse back cruising the neighborhood. So mayhem was minimal."

Arguably, the businesses affected by Summerfest the most are those that are the furthest away. Bar owners all over the city experience a dip in sales because clients choose the lakefront's party over their usual watering holes.

"It's a killer for us," says Scott Voss, general manager of AMF Waukesha/Rooter's Nightclub in Waukesha. "We lose about 85 percent of business during Summerfest."

Voss says he is used to the red smile lull and doesn't try to fight it.

"We don't run any promotions during Summerfest and just wait patiently until the gig's over and business can resume as normal," he says.

Talkbacks

OMCreader | July 15, 2005 at 4:27 p.m. (report)

andy p said: maybe they should move to Public Market. I heard the spaces are free.

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OMCreader | July 14, 2005 at 8:30 a.m. (report)

CONCERNED said: The soccer stadium has even less chance of making it than the movie theatre/arcade/office building.

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OMCreader | July 13, 2005 at 10:31 a.m. (report)

Olde Summerfest Guy said: andy p - Summerfest has gone into decline. There was at one time more grass than pavement to walk on and less in-your-face stage sponsorship. I can understand the need for some kinds of corporate support, but could do with out getting smacked in the head with it. The bands and variety have been in decline for well over ten years. Suggestions: Make the Miller Oasis the Miller JAZZ Oasis again, book more unique bands, less oldies, cover bands and the assumed "sure things" and ease up on the sponsorship signage. Back in the 70's, Grand Funk Railroad was a mainstage headliner. There was a huge attendance even though they had no major hits on the radio, strictly an "underground" thing. No way would that have flown in this business climate.

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OMCreader | July 12, 2005 at 4:54 p.m. (report)

andy p said: Yes the soccer stadium idea is about the worst idea you could think of something to put there, except public housing.

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OMCreader | July 12, 2005 at 3:07 p.m. (report)

Seaweed said: I think the Pabst City idea is a great one. Milwaukee needs more stores/restaurants/entertainment districts. The soccer stadium suggestion is just moronic.

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